Department of Health & Human Services
Premiers Active April

The best way to refuel after a workout

Eating a nutritious diet can help you reach your physical activity goals sooner.

We often pay attention to when and what we eat before a run, walk, swim or other high-intensity activity, but may not think about what we eat the rest of the time.  Eating well after activity and for the rest of the day can also help our body to function better over the day and to perform well during our physical activity.

Plan what to eat and drink

After finishing physical activity we can often feel hungry. It’s easy to mistake the body’s signals for thirst with hunger. First cool down with some water then assess how hungry you are.

When you’re hungry it’s harder to make well-planned decisions about meals and snacks and it can be tempting to head for a takeaway meal or some sugary or fatty snacks. Instead being prepared and knowing what you’re going to eat for your next meal or snack will help you choose healthier options.

Here are some ideas for quick meals:

No need to increase what you’re eating

Unless you have significantly increased the amount of activity you are doing (such as taking up long distance running or swimming) you are unlikely to need more food than you did before. While physical activity such as walking, attending the gym, playing sport or dancing have numerous health benefits for our heart, brain, bones and muscles we don’t actually use a huge amount of energy (kilojoules). Choosing healthier meals and snacks rather than having more food is the best way to energise for physical activity.

Well-balanced meals and snacks to give you the energy you need include:

  • Fruit or vegetables: try to include fruit or vegetables at every meal and snack.
  • Some meat or alternatives – try eggs, chicken, fish (including canned fish), meat or legumes (like baked beans)
  • Dairy – aim for three serves of dairy a day for calcium and protein. This can include milk, yoghurt and cheese (preferably low fat).
  • Grainy food – such as wholegrain or wholemeal bread, low-sugar breakfast cereal (like oats, porridge or weetbix), pasta or rice (preferably brown) or grainy crackers.

Don’t forget to hydrate

Eating healthy meals and snacks is really important for achieving good nutrition. But hydration is also an important part of refuelling after a workout. The best hydrator is water. Avoid sports drinks – they are full of sugar and generally not necessary.

If you’re looking for a way to make your water more flavoursome try adding some sliced fruit, cucumber or mint leaves and keep it in the fridge.

Keep some healthy snacks in the cupboard

If dinner or lunch is a while away when you finish your physical activity, try a snack to tie you over and avoid getting overly hungry. Aim to keep snacks in the cupboard or fridge ready to go so you’re not dashing into the convenience store or supermarket (and their walls of confectionary) on your way home.

Snacks to keep on hand include:

  • A small handful of nuts or seeds + a piece of fruit
  • Yoghurt – reduced-fat plain, Greek or natural varieties are great, or try one of our DIY recipes
  • Small home-made smoothie – try LiveLighter’s tropical or breakfast smoothie
  • Small tin of tuna + crackers
  • Fruit toast with light cream cheese

Time your meals

Many people find it helpful to do their physical activity at the same time each day so they get into a routine. This can also help with meal planning. If you know you finish your activity at 5pm each evening, consider having your dinner earlier to avoid being ravenous by the time you get to eating it. Cooking in bulk and reheating individual portions after your activity can make it easier to choose a nutritious meal.

Get enough rest

If you’ve recently started physical activity you may be feeling more tired than usual. Research shows that we are more likely to choose ‘junk foods’ when we are fatigued. Getting plenty of rest can help you avoid this trap and keep to the meals, snacks and drinks you have planned in advance.

For more healthy tips, recipes and advice visit the LiveLighter website.

Best wishes from the team at LiveLighter as you get active this April.

Last updated: April 18, 2018 at: 3:18 pm

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